The Dogs of Santorini, Greece

Dogs in Greece

Last year my partner and I went on an 11-night cruise of Italy, Greece and Turkey. One of the many highlights of this amazing trip was our stopover in Santorini, Greece. Almost everyone has seen pictures of Santorini and its famous blue domed churches. In fact, I can think of only a few landscapes more breathtaking in the world. However, we were surprised by another feature of the island as soon as we landed. The dogs.

Being rabid (pardon the pun) animal lovers and the owners of three dogs, we are naturally drawn to animals when we travel. We were surprised though to find many stray dogs on Santorini, namely in the cities of Fira and Oia. I had always heard of the famous cats of the island, but never the dogs. Sure enough though, they were everywhere – seemingly stray. We quickly befriended what seemed to be a young shepherd mix and were sorry to leave him behind. After asking some people, we were told that they were ‘island’ dogs and were taken care of by the people of the island communally.

Well, as it would turn out, that’s only partially true. They are most definitely island dogs, but they certainly aren’t taken care of. Unless the dog is owned by someone, then it is not taken care of and many times is actually abused and sometimes killed. The animals thrive in the summer months, when tourists flock to the islands and feed them and make sure they’re ok. However, as soon as the last vessel laden with camera toting tourists leaves, the dogs are on their own.

What does this mean for the traveler? Not much I’m afraid. We can’t fly in and airlift the dogs out, nor can we make sure they are taken care of year round.  And I certainly don’t think people should avoid Santorini, as it truly is a remarkable place. However, this should act as an example to all who travel that not all is what it may seem and certainly not what you are told. When you travel, keep your eyes open and try to see past the shiny veneer of the postcard image.

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

9 Responses

  1. Gail K.

    How sad! I would have wanted to take the dogs home, too. There is nothing more pathetic than abused and mistreated individuals who can not defend or take care of themselves. This applies to both children and animals.
    Thanks for opening my eyes to the plights of dogs in other countries.

    Reply
  2. W_A

    Wow, so sad about the dogs in Santorini. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  3. TravelDesigned

    Do you know if there are any animal shelters on Santorini? As travelers we could donate some time or money when we travel to the local shelters to help these furry friends.

    Reply
  4. Matt Long

    I know, this really does break my heart. There is an organization that you can support though. The Santorini Animal Welfare Association http://www.sawasantorini.org/

    Reply
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  6. Melissa Stanford

    Perhaps, as another tip, to visit in the shoulder or winter seasons, so if you like taking care of stray animals as some people like myself do, you can be there for them when times are rough!

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  7. Don Lindburg

    I, too, was impressed by Santorini’s dogs. After the second day, a black lab became our voluntary escort, waiting at the top of the ridge as we ascended from our cave house. On seeing him sleeping at a shop entry, I inquired of his welfare and was told the dogs belong to no one; they belong to everyone. A small dish placed to collect condensation from an air conditioner was a continuous source of cold drinking water. Dishes of dog food (biscuits) were seen here and there. A small vacant area separated from the street by a low fence seemed to be the community toilet. The dogs were friendly, and seemed to be in good health. Presumably, reproduction is controlled by spaying. There were some indications of a kind of hierarchy and maybe even a territorial preference among the community members. I am truly saddened to read that once the tourists are gone they do not fare so well.

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  8. Laura

    Reproduction is NOT controlled by spaying. The plight of the animals in Greece is a real dark mark on the country. Animal abuse is rampant and many are neglected.

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  9. 2 tickets to Wonderland

    As we traveled around the world, we had similar experiences in many countries. Around South East Asia, there are so many abandoned cats and dogs that at time it’s heartbreaking to look them. We always try to give them at least some food and water, as we know that we can’t do much, since we’re just passing trough the country :(

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